The King has just fled the country, the crowd is starting to riot, and the clergy are furtively exchanging notes with the worried Feuillants. Suddenly the president announces that Prussian forces have advanced to Paris and someone is needed to lead the army. After a pause, General Lafayette announces, “I have been a faithful military leader for France all of my life. I beg that you will consider electing me for your own safety!” A Jacobin quickly confronts him: “This army belongs to the people! It will never be loyal to you!”
No, it’s not exactly the French Revolution. Rather, it’s a group of students in McConnell Hall, meeting every Monday and Wednesday evening to re-enact the historic events.
Reacting to the Past (FYS142) is an interdepartmental first-year seminar that incorporates live-action role-playing of historic events. Students in the course, taught by Patrick Coby, government, and Joshua Birk, history, relive and recreate the events of two significant time periods: the French Revolution and the court of Henry VIII. Each student is assigned to play a character—like Thomas Cromwell, Maximilien Robespierre, or a member of a faction, such as the Jacobins—delivering speeches, negotiating deals, and advancing the character’s goals.
Here are more scenes from this fall’s Reacting to the Past re-enactments.
While King Louis XVI (Madison Chafin ’17) talks to the Indeterminate faction, Georges Danton (Sydney Anderson ’17), a member of the Crowd, prepares to stab him.
Antoine Barnave (Amanda Click ’17), president of the National Assembly, explains an upcoming law to the class.
Facing challenges to replace the Catholic Church in France with the Cult of the Supreme Being, Antoine Saint-Just (Amanda Miller ’17) shouts at dissenters.
Marisol Fernandez-Mora ’17, a member of the Crowd faction confined to the back of the room, tries to reason with members of the Assembly to pass a law in her faction’s favor.
King Louis XVI (Madison Chafin ’17) is startled when the rioting Crowd faction blows bubbles.
During a period of unrest in the Assembly following a Crowd riot, Miximilien Robespierre (Mohona Chowdhury ’17) tries to restore order.
Goofing off before class— Sydney Anderson ’17 and Amanda Miller ’17 pretend to kill King Louis XVI.
Georges Danton (Sydney Anderson ’17) interrupts the Assembly, shouting about the living conditions of the poor.
Antoine Saint-Just (Amanda Miller ’17) delivers a speech about property rights in France.